Chronology and stratigraphy for the MIS 2 damming of glacial Lake Wisconsin, USA

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Eric C. Carson, John W. Attig and J. Elmo Rawling III, WI Geol. & Nat. Hist. Survey, Madison, WI, United States
Glacial Lake Wisconsin formed during the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 glaciation when the Green Bay Lobe (GBL) of the Laurentide Ice Sheet dammed the Wisconsin River at the Baraboo Hills in south-central Wisconsin. Despite nearly a century of research, the precise chronology for the Green Bay Lobe’s advance to and retreat from its maximum position, and the resulting damming and subsequent drainage of glacial Lake Wisconsin, remains unsettled (e.g., Colgan, 1992; Attig et al., 2011; Ullman et al., 2014).

Age estimates from core collected in ice-proximal lacustrine sediment beyond the glacial margin provide chronologic constraint for ice margin fluctuations that controlled glacial Lake Wisconsin’s formation and drainage. Additional cores collected in glacial sediment at and behind the MIS 2 ice margin provide stratigraphic evidence for the dynamics of the GBL during the end of advance to, and the start of retreat from, the MIS 2 maximum. The combined data from these cores suggest that glacial Lake Wisconsin may have filled only once to its highest stage during the MIS 2 maximum, after ice blocked both the east end of the Baraboo Hills and the south end of the Devils Lake gorge. When the ice reached its maximum position and blocked the north end of the gorge, Devils Lake was isolated from glacial Lake Wisconsin and rose to a higher level.

Radiocarbon and OSL ages from the Devils Lake gorge indicate that the GBL advanced to the MIS 2 maximum position by 24.6 ka, and remained at or near that location through 19.2 ± 3.2 ka. Radiocarbon ages from lacustrine sediment in a sub-basin of glacial Lake Wisconsin indicate that ice continued to block the Wisconsin River between 21.6 ka and 17.4 ka. The stratigraphy evident in cores at the Devils Lake gorge and south of the Baraboo Hills indicates that ice thinned and advanced immediately prior to retreat, likely in response to reduced basal shear stress as the bed of the glacier thawed.